Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ambrosia Land Investments, LLC v. Heritage Coal Co.

June 10, 2009

AMBROSIA LAND INVESTMENTS, LLC, F/K/A WILKE WINDOW & DOOR COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF, ILLINOIS MINE SUBSIDENCE INSURANCE FUND, INTERVENING PLAINTIFF,
v.
HERITAGE COAL COMPANY, LLC, F/K/A PEABODY COAL COMPANY, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is the intervening plaintiff Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund's (the "Fund") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 89), and defendant Heritage Coal Company, LLC's ("Heritage") Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment on Grounds Not Yet Decided (Doc. 91).

This case stems from mine subsidence damage to a warehouse, owned by Wilke Window & Door Company, Inc. ("Wilke"), the original Plaintiff in this action. The warehouse is located in St. Clair County, Illinois, above the St. Ellen mine, which is an underground coal mine encompassing more than 3,800 acres. Wilke filed a claim with its insurer, Federated Mutual Insurance Company, for suspected mine subsidence damage. Ultimately, Wilke received $350,000.00 from Federated (which was the limits of the policy) as partial payment for the warehouse damage, although the damages claimed were substantially in excess of this amount. Thus, Wilke filed suit against Peabody Coal Company ("Peabody"), the original Defendant in this case, as Peabody was responsible for the mining operations, bringing two Counts: Count I for negligence for Peabody's failure to provide adequate support for the land surface above the St. Ellen mine and Count II pursuant to the Illinois Surface Coal Mining Land Conservation and Reclamation Act, 225ILL.COMP.STAT.720/4.02. This case was removed here on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

The Fund was created by the State of Illinois to provide reinsurance for certain mine subsidence losses to properties located in-state. Pursuant to a reinsurance agreement between Federated and the Fund, Federated made a claim to the Fund for reimbursement of the amount it had paid out to Wilke. As reinsurer for Federated, because it was determined by a Fund geologist that mine subsidence had, in fact, caused damage to the warehouse, the Fund reimbursed Federated the $350,000.00 it paid to Wilke,. The Fund moved to intervene as a Plaintiff in this suit, claiming it had a subrogation interest in the $350,000.00 it reimbursed to Federated, who ultimately paid the amount to Wilke. Therefore, the Fund concluded it had a subrogation right to at least a portion of the damages claimed by Wilke. The Court allowed the Fund to become an Intervening Plaintiff in this matter.

This case was initially decided upon cross summary judgment motions, filed by both Wilke and Peabody. This Court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of Peabody and against Wilke, finding that Wilke's claims were barred by the Construction Statute of Repose, 735 ILL.COMP.STAT. 5/13-214(b) (see Doc. 53). Wilke appealed this decision to the Seventh Circuit of Appeals. During that time, the Seventh Circuit approved the substitution of Ambrosia Land Investments, LLC ("Ambrosia"), for Wilke as Plaintiff and further approved the substitution of Heritage Coal Company, LLC ("Heritage"), for Peabody as Defendant in this suit.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit found that because Defendant was sued in its capacity as the landowner of the mine and not as a party engaging in construction-related activities, the Construction Statute of Repose did not bar Plaintiff's claims. As such, the Seventh Circuit determined that summary judgment was improper, thereby reversing and remanding for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Ambrosia Land Investments, LLC v. Peabody Coal Co., 521 F.3d 778, 786 (7th Cir. 2008). Several months after the case was remanded back to this Court, defendant Heritage and intervening plaintiff the Fund each filed their respective motions for summary judgment. Also around that time, plaintiff Ambrosia settled its claims with defendant Heritage (see Docs. 101 & 103). Therefore, the only remaining claim in this suit is the Fund's subrogated claim against defendant Heritage for mine subsidence (see Doc. 23). The Fund believes that no remaining disputes of material fact exist, and that it should be granted summary judgment for the $350,000.00 it reimbursed Federated for the amount it paid to Wilke (now Ambrosia) due to mine subsidence damage. Heritage also moves for summary judgment on grounds it raised in its original summary judgment motion, but were not addressed by the Court because of its finding regarding the applicability of the Construction Statute of Repose. Thus, Heritage's remaining arguments are that the Fund's claims should be barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Oral argument has been requested, but as the issues have been sufficiently briefed on paper by the Parties, the Court finds no need to conduct a hearing. For reasons discussed herein, the Court finds in favor of the Fund.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Ins. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999).

B. Analysis

The Fund moves for summary judgment based upon the argument that there exists a prima facie case that Plaintiff's warehouse damage was caused by mine subsidence (Doc. 90, pp. 5-6). The Fund reimbursed Plaintiff's insurer, Federated, for the $350,000.00 it paid to Plaintiff on its claim for mine subsidence. The reimbursement was authorized upon a finding made by Fund geologist that the warehouse damage was caused by mine subsidence. Peabody was the last entity to operate the St. Ellen Mine (it has been closed since 1960). Defendant Heritage has assumed the assets and liabilities of Peabody, who previously assumed them from Perry Coal Company, who operated the St. Ellen Mine prior to Peabody. Thus, the Fund believes it has established a prima facie case that the mine subsidence damage to Ambrosia's warehouse was caused by mining and that Heritage is liable for the resulting damage in the amount it has paid to Federated pursuant to the reinsurance agreement, which was ultimately paid to Ambrosia. On the other hand, Heritage believes that it should prevail on summary judgment, arguing that the Fund's intervening claim against it is precluded by either the doctrine of res judiciata or collateral estoppel. Heritage's summary judgment arguments will be examined first, as it presents an affirmative defense as the basis for its Motion, aiming to bar the Court from reaching the merits of the Fund's claim.

1. Heritage's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment

Heritage argues that two different cases serve to preclude the Fund's claims against it in the instant case. The first case, which Heritage calls "Fund Litigation I," was brought in federal district court for the Central District of Illinois, entitled Illinois Mine Subsidence Ins. Fund v. Peabody Coal Co., 383 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (C.D. Ill. 2005). The Court considered this case in its original Order (Doc. 53), granting Defendant ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.